Bellevue-based gaming company Valve announced today that the 300 lucky testers for its prototype Steam Machine gaming console have already been informed via email that they’ll be receiving the new box, which will be leaving the manufacturer on Friday.
Citing regulatory hurdles, the company said that prototypes will only be shipped out to testers in the U.S., though the Steam Machine will see a worldwide release when it’s ready.
For those people who aren’t among the anointed few to receive an early crack at Valve’s hardware, the company will also be releasing the first version of its Steam OS, the operating system that will be powering the Steam Machine, for download by consumers and commercial OEMs when the prototype Steam Machines ship later this week.
Still, it seems like the gaming-centric flavor of Linux won’t be ready for prime time in the consumer market just yet. Valve’s announcement made it clear that only experienced “Linux hackers” should consider installing the operating system on its maiden voyage. Of course, Valve’s specially-designed Steam Controller won’t be available for purchase until after the Steam Machine hits full production, so it won’t be possible to get the full Steam Machine experience without being a tester.
The console and OS are big steps for Valve, which recently joined the Linux Foundation, and continues to shift away from Windows 8, which company head Gabe Newell called a “catastrophe” for game developers. The Steam Machine represents the company’s best method for drawing gamers towards Linux as a platform.
It’s still unclear when gamers who weren’t chosen as testers will be able to pick up one of Valve’s consoles for themselves, though the company says that it plans to start selling the Steam Machine sometime in 2014. More information will be forthcoming from the company’s January 6 press conference at CES.